Putting the ‘Resolve’ in Resolution

Why Do We Make New Year’s Resolutions?

Social convention plays a big part. A typical small talk topic leading up to December 31st is ‘Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?’ 

At this point, many of us grasp at the first thing that pops into our heads that we find least desirable about ourselves and lead with that. Otherwise it’s an activity we think will be impressive if we express interest in perusing it, or, in desperation, we just vaguely mutter something about diet and exercise. 

Thus, the initial issue with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are non-committal, often vague and generic statements thrown about in the name of festive convention. We are not motivated or inspired, the intention is not there to make them thus there is no ambition to keep them and so they are unfulfilled before even being acknowledged. 

Why Does New Year Appeal for Sudden Goal Setting? 

It’s tidy. The first day of a new year sounds like it should be highly motivational, a neat new start, sweeping out the old and starting fresh.

Perhaps this Spring Cleaning tradition would work if the New Year still began in March, when the days are growing longer and the weather is improving, more of us would be able to maintain their enthusiasm and eat healthier and exercise more. 

But the middle of winter is when the majority of us are seeking for comfort from food and warm blankets. 

What Results in Repeatedly Making Resolutions We Never Keep? 

Most of us are self-aware enough to know that we have faults, accompanied by a desire to ‘fix’ them. 

This means one of two things: either we are trying to go cold turkey on undesirable aspects of our personality (my impatience for instance) and get tripped up by being disappointed in ourselves when we are not perfect and make mistakes like losing our temper over parking tickets or someone drinking out of our special mug at work; or we are trying to undertake projects that we simply do not have the time, year after year, to complete. 

Perhaps the first step with the latter would be to improve our ability at budgeting our time and learning to prioritise, and for the former, we need to learn self-love, not to never change, but to respect ourselves and trust our ability to improve overtime. 

Change is never instantaneous and to act like it is (something that is intensified at New Year) is to set ourselves up for disappointment. We should instead appreciate that change is slow, show ourselves the patience and encouragement we would give others when we experience momentary lapses to bad habits. That way, these slips would be short-lived set backs, not obstacles that holt our progress. 

Effective Change is Born of Positivity not Negativity

The core issue is our expectations; our desire to be our best selves, coming up against our idea of perfection and falling short. 

Too often we are focusing on altering rather than enhancing characteristics.  

One of my friends included among their resolutions (it was a long list) to ‘be kind’. This is, of course, coming from a kind person. People are kind, most of us just struggle to be kind to all people all of the time.

I guess we could look at the issue of this ‘be kind’ resolution as being a blanket statement – goals should have some form of measurement (otherwise you will always fall short because your moving your own finish line) and a way to hold yourself accountable, or else it is too easy to continue to perpetually put it off. 

There are also those resolutions that are driven by external rather than internal influences, mostly regarding appearance. Exercise, diet and fitness resolutions are so frequently the result of drawing comparisons, feeling judged and pressuring ourselves from perceived social expectations, rather than from our own desire to be healthier, fitter or live a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Whilst there is much to be encouraged in pursuing a healthier lifestyle, with balanced diet and regular activity, too often these resolutions stem from places of negativity which manifests as defeatist thought spirals. 

A Time for Reflection Not Resolution 

Instead, New Year should be a time of reflection, a relaxed evaluation of the year gone by, a chance to feel proud at what was accomplished and acknowledge anything that we would have liked to have done differently. (Do not dwell on the latter, acknowledgement is not the same as regret unless you give it more than the passing glance it generally requires).

Reflection is a slow methodical evaluation that enables recognition, instils self respect through acknowledgement, resulting either in acceptance and self love, or the establishment of a considered trajectory for positive change. 

So make this January a time of reflection, and your only resolution to be one of self-care, of acknowledging not regretting and of letting go of the past year to fully embrace your potential in the new one. 

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2nd January

It’s not ideal to be writing about the 2nd of January on the 7th. Fortunately, the delay provides a demonstration of the proceeding content. One of the biggest challenges of this time of year, in addition to the grey and miserable weather, the dark evenings and the pressure for merriment, is New Year Resolutions.

Resolution…

Who hasn’t had ‘January Syndrome’? Starting with high hopes for the New Year, strong motivations and a real determination for change.  Whatever it is, fitness, budgeting or starting a blog, most people have, at some point, woken up on the 1st of January with the notion of ‘today’s the day’!

Reality…

But then, the obstacles begin to appear. If you’d planned to go for a run, may be it’s raining. You meant to go the gym after work, but it’s been a long day, you had to stay late and now you’re too tired. Maybe some unexpected costs put a spanner in the works for your budget. Regardless of what it is, undoubtedly, reasons, complications or excuses (whatever you choose to call them) will crop up. For me, my husband and I visit my family in the south of England every New Year. A mixture of travelling and catching up with friends and family, resulted in some late nights and unpublished blog posts.

Some years you may well have had success with resolutions, but sometimes the slip ups in diets, exercise regimes or other new projects in the early days of January can make it feel like it’s game over. I have some friends who don’t set resolutions for this very reason. Coupled with the bad weather and darker days, for many, New Year’s Resolutions can add extra pressure and have a huge impact on their health. They feel stressed, anxious or depressed.

Make A Change…

This year is different for me, due to a small fact I learnt about Thomas Edison. I gave my mum’s partner one of those ‘On This Day’ calendars for Christmas, and it announced that on the 2nd of January 1879 Thomas Edison began to construct his first generator.

Something more well-known about Edison is that in December, 1914 his factory burnt down. His friends and family were horrified and shocked by the lack of concern that Edison gave – even telling his son to ”Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again”. In a quote from The New York Times he said, “Although I am over 67 years old, I’ll start all over again tomorrow.” This quote has been adopted by business professionals as the desired attitude to have when faced with obstacles, but it can also be cited for personal reassurance. Most of us will slip up, make mistakes, miss days. We are human and we do our best. It is ok to ‘start all over again tomorrow’, as long as we do actually start tomorrow!  

So, despite setting myself the task of writing a blog post every day, missing four days has not sent me into a tail spin of feeling like a failure (and I can assure you that a few months ago it would have).

Interesting Edison recourses I encountered:
http://www.businessinsider.com/thomas-edison-in-the-obstacle-is-the-way-2014-5?IR=T
http://edison.rutgers.edu/digital.htm